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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Beautifully Green

Toyota’s “Prius” and Honda’s “Insight” hybrid vehicles have distinct looks—you can’t help but notice when they drive by. Why do some automakers ignore the special qualities their hybrids offer and camouflage them within an old familiar skin? Is this what buyers want—new technology presented in the same old wrapper? Look at Apple’s “I-Pod”. Or Whirlpool’s new energy star “Duet” washers and dryers in cool metallic grey, mounted on a pedestal for ease of access. These new technologically advanced gadgets have a distinct look that is different from their older counterparts. Can homes express their energy efficiency, comfort and durability in beautiful packages too or are they destined to look like every other house in the neighborhood?

While green design is heavily related to technological advancements, there are natural modifications that can be made. NAHB has included many of these in their newly released Green Building Guidelines. Having windows face south, for example, makes a big difference in keeping a house warm during the winter. The low winter sun angle is available, but since many windows are facing the wrong side they are unable to reap its benefits. Planning the orientation of homes on lots could be done in a more efficient manner; many neighborhood plans and home designs fail to consider the characteristics of the environment in their region. Instead, “traditional” styles continue to dominate in today’s new home market in spite of their lack of adaptability to solar orientations, window locations, shading, prevailing winds, views, yearly rainfall and landscaping.

With the invention of Freon refrigeration, home air conditioning opened up the housing market in places that people once avoided, like Arizona. Up until now, these air conditioning systems were heavy energy users, but in the near future photovoltaic collectors built into homes will be cheap enough to use the sun to generate electricity to run them. All of this is done in defiance of Mother Nature telling us that it is way too hot to live in Phoenix in the summer. Because of technological advancements, however, we can live just about anywhere we want. In fact, Phoenix continues to be one of the fastest growing regions in the country.

Let’s put an end to the square box two story houses with windows scattered indiscriminately around the four compass points ignoring the path of the sun and providing no shade for windows in the summer. Longer rectangle-shaped houses with most windows arranged along the long south elevation will do a better job of collecting the sun’s heat in winter. Shading the windows in the summer will keep the heat out better than high performance glass alone. We need new land planning lot patterns that will facilitate the ability of builders to orient their new homes to the sun. With a little planning and creativity, green homes can be designed to be beautiful, efficient and smart.

posted by Custom Blogs @ 3:22 PM 

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Small Town “Active Living” Concept

Active Adults is a term commonly used to describe people over 55 who have lots of living left to have numerous experiences and accomplishments. They are healthy, productive and energetic, and their children have embarked on their own lives. The couple is now alone in a house bigger than needed and demanding time and maintenance than they want to spend.

During this moment of reflection and questioning, the idea of retirement is considered. Where to retire is paramount in people’s minds and the choices are unlimited. Historically, as many as 50% of people move to a new home sometime in retirement. The desire to stay near the familiar is powerful, but is eventually outweighed by the promise of adventure, new relationships, the fun of retirement and an easier, relaxed lifestyle.

Active Adult Communities are specifically designed to offer the fun, adventure and the new relationships with like-minded people that young retirees want. Sun City in Arizona, created in the 1960’s, continues to attract thousands of active adults in communities around the country. An active adult community typically has at least one 18-hole golf course, tennis, bocce ball courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, ballrooms, fitness center, wellness programs, walking and bike trails, and a variety of special interest clubs and meeting spaces. Many of the amenities are assembled in a grand community center that serves as a focus of the community.

Small towns can offer all of this in a more authentic package. The people are friendly and they include children and young adults, as well as others our own age. Most of us at this age enjoy the spirit of young people and the inspiration they give us to enjoy each day as the start of a new life.

posted by Custom Blogs @ 4:07 PM 




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